*Inter Press Service*
Dahr Jamail and Ali Al-Fadhily
*BAGHDAD, Dec 27 (IPS) - The Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister
Noori al-Maliki, like earlier governments assigned by U.S. occupation
authorities in Iraq, appears to have killed Iraqi dreams of a brighter
General elections Dec. 15, 2005 brought in a government that was
supposed to listen to Iraqis all over the country. It was called a unity
government because the cabinet was formed to include ministers from all
ethnic and sectarian backgrounds after months of negotiations in the
"This is a unity government that no one should object to," al-Maliki
told reporters recently in Baghdad. "All of the powers in parliament
should take part in improving security and services in order to achieve
Maliki condemned groups such as Jabhat al-Tawafuq and The Iraqi Front
for National Dialogue, along with other political groups who have been
critical of the government.
Jabhat al-Tawafuq comprises three leading Sunni groups: the Iraqi
Islamic Party, the Iraqi People´s Conference and the National Dialogue
Council. Their platform is based on national unity and ending the
The Iraqi Front for National Dialogue also stands for ending the
occupation, rebuilding government institutions and improving the
economic and security situation.
But opposition leaders blame Maliki for denying them a role within
government, undermining his claim that there is indeed a unity government.
"We are not really in the government," Tariq al-Hashimi, leader of the
Islamic Party, and one of Iraq´s two vice-presidents told IPS earlier.
"Maliki and his coalition never gave us any real role in the government,
and our ministers´ actions are therefore paralysed."
Hashimi´s group, like other Sunni groups and also some moderate Shia
groups, are nearly voiceless in the feeble Iraqi government.
The dominant Shia coalition was formed in accordance with advice from
Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the revered Shia cleric who
lives in Najaf in the south. This coalition of Shia parties was formed
to secure power against a list of secular parties led by former interim
prime minister Iyad Allawi who formed ´The Iraqi List´.
The power of the Shia coalition forced reluctant Sunnis to participate
in the elections by banding together with their own list in order to win
the votes of Sunnis. The entire political process was divided along
religious and sectarian lines, and along ethnic lines because the
Kurdish list included all of the Kurdish parties.
Given this background, few Iraqis are surprised that their government is
fractured and fragmented, and at odds with itself.
"This government will definitely lead the country into disaster," Dr.
Salih al-Mutlaq, leader of The Iraqi Front for National Dialogue told
IPS earlier. "The country will slide into civil war if this sectarian
attitude remains, and that is why we decided not to participate in this
Former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, with the support of Shia
cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took over April 7, 2005. But Jaafari was
rejected by all other groups, and also by some parties within the Shia
coalition for his failure to lead the country.
Maliki was then assigned the job of prime minister on condition of fair
distribution of in the cabinet amongst winners, and fair treatment to
all Iraqis regardless of their religious or ethnic identity.
"Things only got worse, and this government and parliament won the title
of the worst in the history of Iraq," Thafir al-Ani from al-Tawafuq told
IPS. "The whole system needs to be changed, or else the country will be
divided into small states, and the catastrophe will be too vast to be
Al-Ani cited recent polls to say that more than 90 percent of Iraqis are
angry with the government. People continue to blame the government for
everything going wrong from the high level of violence to lack of
employment and of water and electricity.
One of the darkest clouds of illegitimacy over the Iraqi government is
the alignment of top officials with the Sadr Movement, which has been
accused of backing most of the sectarian death squads that are now the
leading cause of death in Iraq.
"This government failed on all the promises it made to Iraqis, and so
all Iraqis want it changed," Muhammad Basher al-Faidhy, spokesman for
the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars told IPS. "They are sorry they
ever took part in the elections. Our Association warned Iraqis that this
government would be the worst ever. They simply cannot get rid of death
squads because they are their major ally."
Most Iraqis see no future for Maliki´s struggling government, which
barely controls the so-called Green Zone in Baghdad where its offices
are located. The rest of the country is fragmented, and the economy and
infrastructure are in ruins.
"They are going down despite the huge support they are getting from the
U.S. administration," Iraqi analyst Maki al-Nazzal told IPS. "They are
faced by an international denial after their resounding failure in
facing the deteriorating security situation and the comprehensive
collapse in services and reconstruction."
On the other hand, the Sadr movement finds itself in a strong enough
situation to turn away from al-Maliki and his Dawa Party. Sadr leaders
are now calling for early elections, and they are confident of winning
without other support, says their spokesman Hassan al-Zarqani.
"It seems that the United States have chosen the wrong ally once more,"
Zarqani told IPS. "So they will have to reconsider yet again." Sadr had
recently pulled his representatives from the government, but they came back.
Meanwhile, another crisis has arisen. Grand Ayatollah Sistani announced
last week that he will not support a U.S.-backed plan to build a
coalition across sectarian lines. The plan would have sought to
marginalise Muqtada al-Sadr by dividing the Shias.
Resistance to the occupation is rising, on the streets and politically,
as support for the government falls. Not a promising start to 2007.
(c)2006 Dahr Jamail.
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